By this point, I’d realized Bad College Boyfriend was, well, bad, and excised him from my life. But there was a problem: I liked the new way I looked. I was 22; I didn’t want to be a mall Goth anymore. I no longer walked around picturing myself the plucky protagonist of some splendid punk-torian romance. My favorite music was no longer Marilyn Manson and Mindless Self Indulgence, but Sonic Youth and Sleater-Kinney. I’d sort of decided I wanted to be a journalist, and journalists need to blend in a little. One might argue I traded one uniform for another, and one might be right. But the way I looked fit with my (slightly) more grown-up personality, and for the first time, I was starting to feel comfortable in my own skin. And it took me way less time to get dressed!
Was it shitty that I changed as the result of a controlling relationship? Of course it was. As a feminist, I’ve wrestled with this idea quite a bit. Maybe I would’ve made those changes anyway, but it would’ve been better if they’d been my own idea. But I’ve since come to the realization that just because a relationship was ultimately unhealthy, doesn’t mean you can’t salvage some good things from it. In fact, that’s all the more reason to. Sure, BCB was a terrible boyfriend in many ways, but he also introduced me to some things that I loved, and still love to this day. He helped me stop acting all weird and fake (I have very different opinions on this than Jennifer!) out of nervousness in social situations. And he believed in me as a writer before I believed in myself. Some of these were changes I’d been needing to make, but just didn’t know how to. And he taught me a lot about what I do and don’t want, lessons I’ve applied to other relationships since then. For all of those things, I am grateful.
So yeah, you probably shouldn’t change the way you dress for a dude. But if you happen to meet someone at a turning point in your life, and they coerce you into making some changes you end up liking, there’s nothing wrong with keeping those changes long after the relationship is over. You know, like My Fair Lady, if Eliza Doolittle had managed to leave Henry Higgins at the end. Am I the only one who really wanted her to?